Snow Firing Positions

Today I took the opportunity to do some constructive training.  I wanted to bring out all of the arctic special equipment that we would use in the field and implement it in a practical manner.  I had recently seen a WWII video where a German sniper had built a snow hide using a metal frame and a tarp.  This seemed like something we could accomplish in the field without having to drag out an additional frame on top of what else have to use.  The idea came about that we could use our skis and ski poles to build a frame and subsequently use our issued poncho to cover it as a shell.

It started off with digging out a body length and a half sized hole in the snow.  We made it wide enough to fit two people (a shooter and spotter) and initially it was about a foot deep.  Upon further work on the hide, I found that moving the snow to the sides, as opposed to pushing snow forward as well would have worked out better.  [[AAR Note]]  Following that we placed the skis about two feet apart running horizontally across the hole, and the ski poles perpendicular to and on top of the skis.

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For the trial run of this hide site I had the ski poles collapsed expecting the weight of the snow to be too heavy for them.  I eventually came to find that the weight wasn’t as bad as I expected and the stability that would be provided by the poles being extended would have been a better choice.  [[AAR Note]]  You may also notice that the skis were bindings up.  The binding on white rockets tend to hang down when flipped over, rather than catching a binding to the back when crawling in, keeping them right side up became the best option.

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Covering the hole with the poncho was best accomplished by taking it to the furthest forward ski and rolling it back over the remaining ones while stepping in between.  This keeps any surrounding snow from being disturbed and creating a larger signature.  As well, if you have read my post on the thermal blanket, this is a good opportunity to use it.  I didn’t test it with thermals at the hide, but it should (in theory) help to keep your heat from escaping as much, which is awesome when you’re laying in negative temperature snow, and mask your heat signature better.  In these temperatures you should be aware that completely hiding a thermal signature is hard to do.  Any heat out there glows.  But at least distorting the signature using the thermal blanket might throw your enemies off from thinking they are looking at a sniper team.  Also, don’t discount that snow will act as an insulator as well.  Balancing the weight of the snow covering the thermal blanket with how much insulation it provides might get tricky, but ultimately it will be to the benefit of concealment if done right.

IMG_3378 (1)Standard E-tools will work for moving snow.  However, more modern avalanche kits have appropriate, lightweight snow shovels that are far more effective in comparison.  As I mentioned, limiting signature at the hide site is important.  It is best to carry the snow from another area to cover the poncho.  Doing this causes a trail in the process.  It is best to go back through and fill as much of your foot holes with snow as possible.

The type of snow you have to deal with plays a big part in this as well.  Arctic snow tends to be dry and powdery, though sometimes has a “crust” over top.  With this type of snow packing it becomes a chore and the “crust” can cause chunks which will need to be broken up, lest you risk causing an awkward appearance to your camouflage.  If you look over an untouched snowy area, most features are rounded over and smooth, not jagged and chunky.  Sweeping over the surrounding area with your shovel will help to round and smooth out those areas.
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As you can see from these pictures the open area in the front causes a lot of shadow in contrast to the white snow.  Shadow being one of the key target indicators, this signature needed to be removed or reduced.  With the right lighting you are even able to see the suppressor on the end of the rifle.  Using a veil, in this case a repurposed laundry bag, you are able to conceal and mask the signature of the rifle and the shadow while still maintaining observation due to the holes in the mesh.

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From 20 meters and 10 meters respectively.  As you can tell, you would have to be fairly close to notice anything out of the ordinary here.  Anyone over 100 meters from the hide would easily overlook it.  All-in-all this hide sight took about 30 minutes to get set up.  One of the big things to remember about this hide site is that when you are in knee deep snow when you get compromised, taking the time to throw on snowshoes or skis is only going to get you killed.  Your best bet in this environment is to either run full blast as quickly as you can (which won’t get you very far very fast) or simply ensure you don’t get seen by building a well camouflaged site.

Some admin notes from AAR:
Build the side walls deeper.  I had to use a Hawkins position so that the scope wouldn’t be pressed into the ceiling while inside.  A little more depth would help with that.

Extend the ski poles to cover more total area.  This will help prevent sagging of the poncho once weighted and provide better overall skeletal support.

Build up enough snow that the tips of the skis are buried as well.  In a few pictures the tips can clearly be seen and could potentially be a target indicator.

Building a snow pack in the front will provide cover, but building it too tall will obscure your field of view.  Ensure you smooth it down to reduce “tossed salad” upon firing.
I also took a second to test out a hasty firing position using a snow shoe.  Sometimes you have to use what’s available to you.  Trying to go prone in the snow is a fruitless effort; you’ll only bury your rifle.  Instead, I dug a snowshoe into the snow and then used the toe area as a rest for the rifle.  From this position you are able to see through the windows on the shovel of the snow shoe and have a clear field of view for engaging targets.  Essentially you are in a modified kneeling position and can stabilize the rifle by grasping either the snow shoe, or supporting the buttstock.  Worked pretty well for me.  Enjoy.
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And as always…

Stay hidden; stay safe.

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5 thoughts on “Snow Firing Positions

    • Dsd,
      I didn’t get a chance to address you on the last post comments and I wish I hadn’t been embroiled in the rest of the mess so that I might have been able to get back to you.

      Winter training is a highly unpopular activity. No one likes going out in -20. But what history has taught us, is we often don’t get to choose the time and place when we have to fight. I feel it’s vital, especially up here to practice and retain these skills, despite the laments of my peers.

      As for the article. I don’t rock boats unnecessarily. I also am not a big fan of shooting myself in the foot if I don’t need to. If we were face to face I could tell tales, but I prefer to not speak frankly about such things to what could potentially be an inappropriate audience.

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      • completely understood and a professional viewpoint.

        some days, it just really goes right to my core when i see others suffering political fates like this, i want do help but like most, the feeling of what can i do, leaves me watching a good man suffer.

        and again, totally agree on the snow training as well as rain, cold, heat etc… you cannot pick your fight all the time… most often it will pick you when you are most disadvantaged. words to live by for sure…

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        • A wise man once told me that I should, “do what my rank can handle”. I’m certainly in no position to be of any help to the guys in the article. It seems that even after their congressman was told to pound sand that there’s not a whole lot that’s going to change the outcome of the major ‘ s silver star.

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